Business Innovation and the Law
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Business Innovation and the Law

Perspectives from Intellectual Property, Labour, Competition and Corporate Law

Edited by Marilyn Pittard, Ann L. Monotti and John Duns

Business Innovation and the Law analyses the topical issue of protecting and promoting business research and development. It does so by examining business innovation through the lens of different legal disciplines – intellectual property, labour and employment laws, competition and corporate laws.
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Chapter 26: Licensing university intellectual property: ownership and management of intellectual property in the United Kingdom

Noel Byrne


Licensing agreements between commercial enterprises and universities are seen by the universities as a way to enhance their profiles in the commercial world and to earn revenue from their research activities, and by the commercial enterprises as a way to gain access to research expertise or results. For most (if not the vast majority) of universities in the European Union and beyond, those ambitions or aspirations are not (and may never be) realized. Only a relative handful of universities, including the top universities, can hope, let alone expect, to gain financially from licensing their intellectual property to commercial enterprises; and even for this minority the evidence is somewhat thin in so far that the revenue earned from licences outweighs the administrative and legal costs in negotiating, formalizing and managing a licensing agreement. Even the top universities may spend more trying to license or actually licensing their research results than they can expect realistic- ally to gain from licensing, at least in the shorter term. There is little, if any, ‘fast money’ to be made by universities from licensing research results. Such information must be transformed into a marketable technology in order to realize a revenue stream. When the research results are a major technological breakthrough (for example the Cohen-Boyer recombinant DNA method in the 1970s) the academic institution may get a significant up-front payment for the grant of a licence to exploit the results.

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